Leonardo Beats Adversity, gets 7 Distinctions: The Story of a Father’s Enduring Influence




Leonardo Abrahams is a kid that cannot fully comprehend what an inspirational legend he really is. Here is a kid who, as the story goes, should have been broken by loss and poverty. Instead, the 18 year old got seven distinctions, which includes 89% in Mathematics.

Leonardo’s story starts in Robertson, where he is a happy kid with a loving mom and dad. He idolised his father, Thomas. Thomas grew up poor and worked his way out poverty, eventually teaching his son about the value of hard work and persevering in face of great odds. This is an important part of the story because it is what shaped what was to become one of the most inspirational young men in the country.

After completing his teaching degree, Thomas was offered a position as a principal, becoming even more of a giant in the eyes of the young Leonardo. Then tragedy struck. When Leonardo is 7 years old, his father dies of a heart attack. Not only is this a devastating loss, but it turns the life of the young Leonardo upside down. Thomas is no longer able to provide and Leonardo soon understands what it is like to go to bed hungry.

His mom tries her best to put food on the table but good work opportunities are scarce.  She moved her family to Ashton in search of better work opportunities, but things did not work out as planned. They continued to struggle and Leonardo becomes even more acquainted with going to bed hungry. He is however his father’s son, so he instead of giving up, he decided that he would make sure that he never goes to bed hungry again.

Like his father taught him, he put in the hard work, deciding to persevere. As a learner at Ashton Secondary, he is the first person through the school gates, the last to leave, always making sure that he completes his homework. Instead of playing after school like the other kids, the naturally inquisitive Leonardo sits at the library until it closes; absorbing every bit of information he can get his hands on. He is especially interested in Maths and Science, having already decided that he would become a medical doctor. He wants to help people so that that they never have to lose a parent like he did. His hard work pays off.

His report card always shows either a mark above 80% or 90% and he is always the top performing learner in his grade. He earns the respect of both his peers and teachers; eventually rising to the rank of Head Boy in matric. The big payoff comes the day he receives his matric results, earning straight A’s which amounts to 7 distinctions. These include 88% for Afrikaans, 90% for English, 89% for Life Orientation, 93% for Life Sciences, 92% for accounting, 91% for physics and 89% for mathematics. There is a cherry on the top. He has been accepted to study medicine at the University of Cape Town.



The ‘straight A’ Leonardo would be described by most as a disciplined young man, a bit quiet but always working hard to make sure that he excels. One thing they did not know is the struggles he had to endure. It is not something he enjoys talking about and he hardly asks for help, choosing to bare his burden on his own. He does however admit that it gets very lonely and at times, he feels despondent and isolated from the rest of his peers. He also says that it is hard to say no when he gets invited to social events but he knows that if he is to escape his poverty, he has to make the necessary sacrifices. He does however have a strong network of people that loves and supports him when he feels like giving up.

He says is mom supports him on a daily basis and does her best to put food on the table, despite several years of struggling to find a decent job. He is also grateful for the ladies at the library for always making him feel positive, as well his very supportive teacher, John Benjamin. John only found out recently about his young learner’s struggles, and along with his wife, Serone, rallied the other teachers to make sure that Leonardo has food on the table and some spending money in his pocket. His Afrikaans teacher, Liezel Stadler, is also a rock in his life, and he always reaches out to her when he feels that he is at breaking point. And then there is his father whose life lessons endure and whose spirit resides strongly within his son.

Leonardo Abrahams is a kid that cannot fully comprehend that he is in fact, a legend. One can argue that he is made up of some sort of unbreakable metal that nobody has heard of before. The truth however, is that he is a kid like any other, who, like his father, made a choice to persevere, regardless of his circumstances. He is the kind of kid that makes those facing the same difficulties realise that they too can succeed. The legacy of the future Dr. Abrahams will be ingrained in the hearts and minds of every single kid that read his story, became inspired and succeeded. And so begins the legend…

Note: This story was compiled from an article written by Marteli Brewis for Kuier Magazine, Other

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